“Write every day” is one of the worst pieces of advice to give someone who wants to be a writer. It turns writing into a chore and, if a writer finds writing something a chore, readers will find it a chore to read. Writers need time off too. But writers write and if you’re busy talking about writing, taking yet another creative writing course, buying yet another ‘how to write book’ and not actually writing, you’re not a writer. So how can you get into the habit of writing?
Find the best time to write
Do you write best early in the morning or late at night? Find out and organise your days so that you can write at the best time for you to write as far as you can. If you’re a morning writer, do your chores the night before and grab and early night so you can get up in the morning.
Respect your writing time
If you live on your own, this is easy. If you live with others, you will have to train them to respect your writing time and make it clear that you’re not available. It’s easier if you can retreat into a study and close the door, but still possible if you write at the kitchen table. If you allow others to interrupt, you’re effectively giving them permission to treat your writing as an unimportant hobby. If writing is important to you, make it important to your partner and children too.
Even if you’re not writing something new, use the time to prepare submissions to editors or do research or write reviews.
Give yourself time to be alone and daydream
It’s impossible to be creative if you’re surrounded by the bustle and noise of others so make sure you get some time alone. If there isn’t space at home, get in the habit of taking a walk, going for a run or cycle ride. This is neither selfish or a waste of time. Writing isn’t just the process of getting words on paper, it’s also the process of assembling those words, making connections and reaching new insights. You can’t do that if you don’t have space to think.
Develop your powers of observation and curiosity
Watch others, open yourself to new experiences and explore. If your daily routine is getting up, taking the same route to work, meeting the same colleagues, cooking dinner from a limited choice of recipes you’re over-familiar with and then settling down and trying to write, chances are your writing will be just as routine.
Don’t fear Failure
Give that wacky new idea a chance. If it doesn’t work, keep it in your notebook. You don’t have to fail in public, but you need to try new ideas to develop your writing. Not everything you write should be a publishable piece but all those non publishable pieces represent practice and experience. It’s unusual for a poem to be accepted by the first editor it’s sent to, so don’t hold back from submitting work. An idea not working out or a poem being rejected, does not mean you have failed as a writer. It simply means the idea needs more incubation time or a different approach or that your poem didn’t find the right editor so find a magazine that might be a better fit.
Doing creative writing courses or joining a writers’ group may offer the opportunity to learn and develop your writing, but the best way of learning and developing your skills as a writer is to read and read widely. Reading offers a way of finding out what works, figuring out what doesn’t work and keeping up with trends in publishing. It’s also a great source for new ideas for your own writing.
By Emma Lee
March 6, 2014 at 1:18 pm
Pithy, intelligent observations and advice. Thanks, Emma. I’ll add a remark by Kafka which, as a writer, I repeat to myself when the frustrations of daily life interfere with my writing: “The amount of quiet I need is not to be found in this world.”
March 9, 2014 at 10:03 pm
[…] title says it all) “Writing + Day Job = Frustration” and another by Emma Lee, “Get in the Habit of Writing.” I’ve mentioned before that I’m struggling to get into my writing stride this […]